The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has withdrawn a 2011 memo to staff that provided guidance for inspection of farms with fewer than 10 employees, the agency said this week.
The memo caught the attention of Sen. Mike Johanns, R-Neb., late last year who pointed out that federal law prohibits OSHA from regulating farms with fewer than 10 employees. According to Johanns, the law has been in place since 1976, and stipulates that OSHA-appropriated funds can't be used for inspection of exempt farms.
Johanns said that contrary to the law, OSHA's memo asserts that on-farm grain storage and handling was not a part of farm operations, expanding OSHA's regulatory scope to "nearly every farm in the country."
Sending a letter to the Department of Labor to address the issue, Johanns and more than 40 Senate colleagues said in December that the agency should issue guidance correcting the original memo.
In a Feb. 10 letter to Johanns, DOL Assistant Secretary at the Office of Congressional and Intergovernmental Affairs Brian Kennedy confirmed that the agency would heed their request and withdraw the guidance, explaining that the memorandum was meant only to clarify OSHA's limitations on grain safety enforcement on farms with fewer than 10 employees.